winter of discontent

Getrude Makhafola

Getrude Makhafola

Many more workers in the public and private sectors are expected to go on strike as South Africa enters its annual winter labour action period.

This time the strikes promise to be more violent and crippling as they will involve doctors, nurses, police and the transport sector.

With the strike by Metrobus drivers in its third week, other industries have also been hit by "the strike season".

lThreatening to strike is the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union over an increase promised back in 2007.

Popcru said the Department of Correctional Services had until next Friday to conclude the Occupation Specific Dispensation - "otherwise, on May 25 we are going to embark on strike".

lHot on their heels is their security counterparts, the South African Police Union.

The union decided to consider industrial action to force the SAPS management to pay police officers the agreed payment on overtime.

Sapu said it had referred the matter to the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council for further discussions.

lStriking doctors have told the South African Medical Association to reject the government's latest offer of a 5percent salary increase.

Negotiations are taking place at the bargaining council.

lPrimary health care at Johannesburg's municipal clinics has also been interrupted.

Nurses, who belong to the South African Municipal Workers Union and the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union, embarked on a "go-slow" earlier this month over the lack of medicines and poor working conditions.

lCosatu's South African Transport and Allied Workers Union and Fedusa's United Transport and Allied Trade Union have declared a wage dispute with Transnet after wage talks broke down in the Transnet Bargaining Council last week.

Satawu has warned of a possible strike by Transnet's 55000 rail, engineering, port and pipeline employees if the dispute is not resolved.

lAt Prominent Paints, a paintproduction company in Alberton, 117 staff members who belong to the General Industries Workers Union are on strike over incentives.

lMeanwhile, provision of primary health care has ground to a halt in municipal clinics around Johannesburg.

The municipal nurses embarked on a "go-slow" early this month demanding salary increases and better working conditions. The situation worsened last week when clinics slammed their doors on patients, instructing them to go to provincial clinics as they had stopped attending to the ill, pregnant and those with chronic diseases.

Yesterday, clinics in Mofolo South and Jabavu in Soweto were empty - and nurses were nowhere to be seen.

At present only immunisation and family planning services are being rendered to patients at municipal clinics.

City of Johannesburg executive director Rafik Bismal admits that municipal nurses' salaries are not the same as those employed by the provincial government. "We have explained to nurses that salaries cannot be the same because they are not employed by the same department.

"The municipality's budget is very small as compared to the provincial one. We understand their frustrations but the matter cannot be resolved overnight. Their issues would be addressed but it will take some time."

In support of the nurses, patients, led by the Soweto Health Committee, marched to the mayor's office to deliver a memorandum of grievances.

"We want the council to know that the patients are suffering in the townships because of their slow pace in addressing nurses' grievances," said Nicholas Mudau, a member of the Soweto Health Committee, yesterday.

"Critically-ill patients are being turned away from clinics and we do not blame the nurses. They are being overworked but are the worst paid."- Additional reporting by Zinhle Mapumulo